ATI Radeon HD 5870 1GB GDDR5 Preview Page: 1
Introduction
 
So it's finally that time of year when after a significant amount of time of what seems as though a stagnant market we're presented with something new and hopefully very special. What exactly do you hope to see? Substantial performance increases from the previous top end of graphics card? An improvement in visuals and eye candy and/or just all out bang per buck? Honestly, we welcome change of any sort so long as it's change for the good.
 
Today we had the opportunity to try out AMD's new killer GPU, the HD 5870 for a limited set of benchmark runs. Loosely based on the successful RV770 (HD 4800 series) architecutre, it is hammed up and tweaked into a mammoth 2.1 billion transistor, DX11 compliant creature aimed squarely at nVidia's excellent but steadily ageing arsenal of GTX 2xx Graphics Cards. So what makes this graphics card so great? Comparison table, here we come
 
  nVidia GeForce GTX 285 ATi Radeon HD 4890 ATi Radeon HD 5870
Manufacturing
Process
55nm 55nm 40nm
DirectX  10 10.1 11
Memory Interface 512bit GDDR3 256bit GDDR5 256bit GDDR5
Stream Processor
Count
240 800 1600
Core Clock 648 850MHz 850MHz
Memory Clock 1242 975MHz 1200MHz
TMU Count 80 40 80
ROP Count 32 16
32
 
 
 
Would you like the long story or the short story? In a nutshell the ATI Radeon HD 5870 features everything that the HD 4800 series could offer but more. Everything has seen an improvement. The shrink to 40nm and retaining the smaller 256bit interface allows for a less complex and smaller GPU core, driving the costs right down, but without the performance loss thanks to the faster GDDR5 memory. TMU/ROP count and subsequently Stream Processor count has also doubled, which means a theoretical “doubling” of bandwith. On paper, it would seem as though ATi has a rather good chance of pipping the GTX 285 as well. Understatement of the century? Maybe, maybe not. Let's have a physical look at ATi's latest gem.
 
 
 
First of all, it should be noted that this is ATI's longest single GPU graphics card. Measuring in at around 10.5", this graphics card will fit in any case that previously fitted a Radeon HD 3870/4870X2, GTX 2xx or GeForce 8800GTX/Ultra. The cooling solution consists of a multi-heatpipe cooler, with a full length shroud that will direct cool air across it's internal fins and out of the case via vents to the rear. I can happily report that the graphics card is whisper quiet at idle and surprisingly tolerable under load conditions as well. Towards the rear of the card, we see a rather interesting cluster of video inputs. This Radeon HD 5870 sports two Dual Link DVI, one HDMI and one Display port input, allowing for maximum flexibility. Do note that while there are four inputs available, only three can be used at once. Did I say only three? What I meant is that this graphics card just made your Matrox Triple Head2Go redundant. Enough chit chat though, it's results time! 


ATI Radeon HD 5870 1GB GDDR5 Preview Page: 2
Test Setup
 
Intel Core i7 965 Extreme Edition @ 3.30GHz (975 Clocks)
9GB DDR3-1333 Memory
80GB Intel X25M Solid State HDD
2 x 1TB 7200RPM SATA II HDD
ATi Radeon HD 5870 1GB GDDR5
nVidia GeForce GTX 285 1GB GDDR3
Coolermaster HAF 922 Case
 
As you can see, our test setup has been specified in such a nature that the graphics cards are not limited by other components such as the CPU. While the results may not necessarily be relevant to the bulk of consumers as the testbed is likely to contribute a fair amount to the overall results, it certainly helps us work out the margin to which the HD 5870 is faster (or slower?).
 
 
Results
 
 
Crysis is known to be a heavy tasker of a game. Evidently, at 1920x1200 with oodles of detail and eyecandy, one really needs a computer with phenominal processing power. The Radeon HD 5870 quite clearly tops the GTX 285 by substantial margins. It must be said however that even doubling the minimum framerate of the GTX285 is still a far cry from fluid gameplay. Speaking of far cries...
 
 
Far Cry 2 is not so demanding but still holds a significant element of GPU dependancy in the highlighted scenario. While the HD 5870 see's a huge lead in maximum framerates, it remains to be a rather modest defeat with the majority of framerates skewed towards the lower end of the 55 to 150 spectrum. Regardless, this is an admirable result.
 
 
Initial Impressions
 
At the end of the day, ATi has launched a new graphics card to directly counter nVidia's GeForce GTX 285 in the sub $400 category.In an ideal world, this graphics card needs to at least match the GTX285 in performance and be priced similarly in order to steal some sales and for the HD 5870 to be a complete success, it must give the nVidia a genuine beating. It certainly seems as though ATi's new range topper is on the right tracks to do just that but it's quite interesting to see that even one graphics generation later, games such as Crysis continue to force framerates into choppy realms at resolutions which are steadily becoming the norm in many households. Aside performance, the HD 5870's key selling points are it's full DirectX  11 functionality and support for up to 3 (or 6 with relevant "6" edition card) monitors. We for one would put significant value on both of these features but what if one's aim is only raw performance? If that is the case, might two previous generation Radeon HD 4890's in Crossfire or GeForce GTX 260/275's be a better proposition? How will the HD 5870 perform with a more affordable machine? Hopefully we can answer these questions very soon.
 
good start  
 
All in all, ATi seems to have got off to a good start with their DirectX 11 range. It must be remembered that this is only the beginning and that in the next few months we will see a number of midrange graphics cards based on the HD 5870 as well as a dual GPU 'X2' version to tackle the ultra high end. If AMD can keep a grip on their sweetspot strategy of offering such equipment with an aggressive pricing strategy, they have certainly set themselves up for a very respectable headstart against the upcoming nVidia competition codenamed 'GT300', which will slowly fall into the spotlight of the rumour mills as it's anticipated release date draws closer. Until then, it's time for nVidia to remove any smug expressions on their faces and carefully evaluate their future strategies accordingly. Move aside GTX 285, your reign as the fastest single GPU on the market has come to an end. Well done ATi!